Not many 13-year-olds can say they have a fan club. Lucy Burks is not like many 13-year-olds. The Boring Middle School student has competed in professional disc golf tournaments she was 10, amassing quite a following in the process.
"When I started doing (disc golf), I liked that I could go outside and be productive," Lucy said. "I was still pretty young, so I wanted to do everything my dad did to look cool."
Now Lucy is definitely considered "cool" by many children, who look up to her as a professional. Also, she boasts having a better forehand throw than her dad — a skill undoubtedly honed with her intensive training schedule. Lucy practices six days a week during the on-season in summer, throwing up to 300 putts and drives in each one-to-two-hour session.
"I've made so many friends," she said. "It's like just an army of people ready to battle at my side when I go to tournaments."
"Who doesn't root for kids?" Lucy's father Marcus Burks added.
In the past year, Lucy has flung her way to the top of her age division, FJ2, making her the No. 1 player in the world younger than 15 for 2017. Needing 10 points to qualify for the world championships in 2018, she actually earned 47 points through tournament play.
She also caught the eye of major disc golf manufacturer Innova, which now sponsors her.
"Now I can show my joy to all the disc golfers," she said. "I like (disc golf) because it's like a puzzle in my brain and I have to figure out how to get the disc toward the basket and get a good score."
Last December, with the support of Innova's Throw Pink nonprofit organization, Lucy hosted her own tournament called Throw Pink Oregon. The breast cancer awareness group provided product, and Lucy drew a quite a crowd to compete at Timber Park in Estacada.
"It was awesome," Lucy noted. "Being out there, seeing all these (grownups) and people look up to you ... it showed them a 13-year-old girl can do things."
Marcus added, "it was a good edge as well to help her with her leadership development."
Besides driving her to all of her tournaments and retrieving the occasional far-flung disc, Marcus tries to integrate as much leadership training as possible into Lucy's professional experience. The former cub scout leader recognizes the importance of being an independent, assertive person.
"I'm a single dad, so disc golf for me was a way to get the family together," he said. And at first, his daughter Olivia also was playing professionally, making it up to No. 6 in the world as a junior player before the game just wasn't fun for her anymore. Now with Lucy, Marcus builds on her naturally extroverted personality by using the principle of "shadow leadership," encouraging her to do things like direct Throw Pink tournaments and teach clinics.
"I think one of Lucy's strengths is she gives back," Marcus said. "When we go to a tournament, it's not uncommon to see Lucy high-fiving other players. She's a great ambassador for the sport."
Lucy herself likes the self improvement she has been able to achieve, and meeting and encouraging new people to further the sport.
"What she's accomplished as an athlete, that benefit is second to the character building she's been able to do," Marcus said.